Birthday Surprises

When I bought my new digital camera three years ago, I made sure it came in time for my oldest girl’s birthday. I wanted to make sure to get lots of pictures of the big day. For some, the camera sits on the shelf most of the time, but not on a birthday. The shutter goes wild while we celebrate.

Blowing out the candles is the moment that can’t be missed.

A Little Help


And there are the gifts.

Just What I Wanted

And then there are the surprises. 

While doing a photo a day last year, I noticed that some of my favorite pictures from birthdays weren’t about the birthday at all.



This was one of my favorite images of the whole year. It was taken while we were at the zoo on my youngest child’s birthday.

Last week it was my big girl’s birthday. It was unusually warm and we were back at the zoo . Again, my favorite image of the day didn’t happen around the cake. It happened unexpectedly at the zoo.

Enough of the Elephant House

I make sure to have the camera ready when the candles are lit but don’t leave it on the shelf the rest of the day.


Simple Technical Information: Leaving the camera in auto mode will not produce a cake and candle shot that shows the candlelight on your child’s face. In the dark room, the meter will tell the camera that there is not enough light and the flash will pop up. The candles’ light will be overpowered by the flash. If you simply turn off the flash, the camera will still be trying to get the whole frame to be well lit and will set the shutter speed too slow to get a sharp picture. Manual exposure is the answer. The problem is how quickly it happens. Those candles are melting! I make a guess and take some quick shots as the cake is coming out to fine tune. It does take practice and sometimes the moment passes. There’s always next year. 

3 thoughts to “Birthday Surprises”

  1. I really like this post. To remember that the whole day is important too! What a great concept. It would be fun to have the camera going during decorating the cake together or wrapping the presents with the siblings. I'll have to do that next time. Also, i really like the technical tip! That is a great addition to your post. Thanks Jen!

  2. The aquarium photo is also one of my very favorites from your 365 project. Something about the light on her face and the brilliant green hues. . . is so stunning.

    And Happy Birthday to your beautiful girl. I still remember her as a tiny two-year-old!

  3. If you are able to change the metering mode to spot mode. Only meter the subjects face, the camera should produce the correct exposure to achieve the same image you got via manual.

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